Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Path to Reinigeadal - Revisited

I have posted in the past about the hill path to Reinigeadal which, prior to the road reaching the village in 1987, was the only way for walkers to get there from Tarbert. The walk is so spectacular, that I thought it worth revisiting, including some photos I've not used before.

In no particular order, here are some of the views that await all who walk this exhilarating path.

Looking west from near the top of the path

Looking east to the Shiants from the summit cairn

Top of the switchbacks heading east
Switchbacks down to the shore

Approaching the shore of Loch Trolamaraig

Looking west up the Abhainn Ceann an Locha

Where the path to Molinginis branches off
Stone marking the path to Molinginis

Looking back to the switchbacks from Reinigeadal

Trolamaraig beach at the bottom of the path

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Beinn Tangabhal via the Hebridean Way

My wife and I ended our Hebridean trip last August with a stay on Barra. I had been reading about the new Hebridean Way, a long-distance path that begins on Vatersay, and ends 185 miles north at the Butt of Lewis. While I was on Barra I wanted to walk some of the path, and I also wanted to climb Beinn Tangabhal, as I had not been up there for 20 years.

As it turns out, just where the Hebridean Way crosses the Vatersay causeway, it continues north by ascending the western shoulder of Beinn Tangabhal, which at just over 1000 feet elevation, is the third highest peak on Barra. The high point of that section of the path comes within 1000 feet distance, and 250 feet elevation, of the summit of Tangabhal; and so I decided make a climb up the mountain via the Hebridean Way.

The 'official' start of the path is marked by an iron marker, just opposite the Vatersay Community Hall.

The route then follows the road around to the Vatersay Causeway; but if you have the energy, a better way is to climb north over Heiseabhal Mor, the highest point on Vatersay. The views far outweigh the exertion required to get there.

Vatersay Causeway seen from slopes of Heiseabhal Mor
After descending from the high ground of Vatersay, you cross the causeway, then carry on along the road 1500 feet to the east. Here the Hebridean Way finally leaves the road to head up into the hills.

As you start to climb, just above the road, you pass a very historic site: the Allt Chrysal Roundhouse.

Just offshore here I saw the boat Boy James. Under its previous skipper, Donald Beg, Boy James had taken me to the islands of Pabbay, Bernera, and Sandray - good times. Although Donald Beg no longer skippers the boat, it still does trips to the uninhabited islands south of Barra.

Boy James in the Sound of Vatersay
Just above the Allt Crysal roundhouse I came upon the first waymarker for the Hebridean Way.

As I climbed north, the view opened up to the east. Unfortunately it was a misty day, and as I climbed that view gradually disappeared. After ascending 800 feet the trig-pillar on the summit of Beinn Tangabhal appeared in the cold mist.

The summit was fascinating. Twenty years had passed since I was last here, and the mist that came and went with the wind made for quite an ethereal experience.

After enjoying the view (and a beer), I headed back to the Hebridean Way, which I followed down to the sands of Halaman Bay.

After reaching sea-level, the route went through through the sands of Halaman Bay to the Barra Ring Road. It was an amazing hike, one that I can highly recommend. I ended the hike with a two-mile road walk back to Castlebay, where I rewarded myself with a pint at the Craigard Hotel.

Halaman Bay and Tangasdal

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Taste of Rum

Here's a taste of Rum. My two favourite spots on the island are Kilmory, near the north end, and the summit of Hallival, near the top end. The hike up to Hallival, from sea-level, is a climb of 2,700 feet, just shy of a Munro. The last 300 feet is an exciting scramble up its steep, rocky mantle.

The view from the top of Hallival makes it all worthwhile.

My second favourite spot on Rum is Kilmory. On our first visit to Rum, in 1997, my wife and I made the five mile walk there, only to be turned away, just 500 feet from the beach. A squad of wildlife researchers were watching a deer give birth. They did not want any disturbance, so we had to turn around. We returned three years later.

The old village, burial ground, and chapel site at Kilmory, set against the backdrop of the river and the Rum Cuillins, is absolutely stunning. At the left of the next photo you can see the tombstone of the five Matheson children, who died within three days of each other from diphtheria.

Lying inside the burial ground is a cross-inscribed pillar. Well over a thousand years old, it may have once stood by the old chapel.

A not-so-picturesque sight at Kilmory is the old laundry building. From the outside it's a rusting eyesore, but on the inside you'll find something amazing; a collection of items from Rum's most famous residents.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Isles to Be - Sanda

This is the final Isles to Be installment - for now, anyway. The island is Sanda, off the southern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula. The island's previous owners had a go at offering accommodation and a pub. The current owners no longer do that, and do not encourage visitors. When it was operating, the pub claimed to be the most remote in the UK.  I think the owners of the Old Forge in Inverie might disagree with that claim.

The pub was named 'The Byron Darnton', after a ship that went aground on the island.

The Pub - now closed
Even though the pub is closed, I still want to set foot on the island. Two sites appeal: St Ninian's Chapel, and the Stevenson lighthouse. The chapel dates to at least the 14th century, and was once a sanctuary. 

St Ninian's Chapel and burial ground
A kilometre away, on the south side of the island, is the 1850 Stevenson lighthouse. It has a unique feature, its two stair-towers. These give access to the lighthouse, which sits atop a rock, 30 metres above the sea.

A reef near the ligthhouse is called Prince Edward's Rock, after Edward Bruce, the brother of Robert Bruce. Edward became King of Ireland, and died fighting at Dun Dealgan, 100 miles away. The island was associated with another Bruce in the late 1960s, when Jack Bruce, bassist for Cream, owned the island.

Sanda is difficult to get to. It lies in an exposed spot in the sea, and is a long run for cruises based on the west coast. I will probably have to arrange a private charter to get there. To celebrate landing on this elusive isle, I'll have to bring my own refreshments. Unless, that is, I can talk them into opening the pub.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Isles to Be - Texa

Another island that I've yet to see is Texa. It is a small island that sits a half mile off the south coast of Islay, just opposite the Laphroig distillery. It had a population of 8 in the 18th century, and has been uninhabited since the middle of the 19th.

Texa is an intriguing name. Especially in that I believe it's the only Scottish island with an X in its name.  The explanation is that it is only 20 miles from Ireland. The Irish for house is 'Teach', and the 'a' is Norse for an island; so the spelling is a corruption of 'Teach-a', House Island. The 'house' may refer to the 14th century church that stands above the landing place on the north side of the island.

There may have been a seminary or monastery here prior to the 14th century, as the island was a stopover on sea journeys to and from Ireland. I have no photos of my own of Texa, so I am using a couple from the Geograph website.  For more Geograph photos of Texa see this link.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Isles to Be - Bearasaigh

Another Isle to Be is The Pirate's Isle. How's that for an enticing name. Was it once the base of Blue Beard, or maybe Jean Laffite? No. Or how about Captain Hook?  No; although Hook's creator spent time writing in a spot 20 miles from the island.

The island's other name is Bearasaigh, and it lies off the mouth of Loch Rog (Lewis). Between 1610 and 1613 Neil MacLeod and forty of his followers had a stronghold on the island, from where they launched raids against the “Gentlemen Adventurers” sent to Lewis by James VI.

Bearasaigh (middle distance) seen from the Bostadh Roundhouse
Bearasaigh was a good choice for a stronghold. It is cliff-girt, with just one, easily defended, sloping rock slab that allows access to the top of the island. They eventually caught Neil by stranding family members in a boat tied to a tidal rock near the island. Neil and his band surrendered in order to save them. Neil managed to escape after that, but was recaptured and ended up swinging from an Edinburgh scaffold in 1613. In chapter 16 of his book Behold the Hebrides, Alasdair Alpin Macgregor recounts the story of Neil Macleod (which you can read at this link).

I've always wanted to get ashore on Bearasaigh to see the remains of Neil's encampment on the island (see this link). But to do so would require an expensive day-charter of a RIB on a calm day, and so I've put it off for many years. I have, however, managed to come within 10 feet of the island on a day-cruise around Loch Rog. On the south side of the island we took a close look at the rock slab that gives access to Bearasaigh. It was a miserable, cold and wet day, as you can tell from the rain-smears on the photo of the landing spot. A scramble to the top of the island on those rocks would be exciting - something I hope to do someday.